Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

Muawad Rashid

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December – the day the United nations General Assembly adopted in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document which proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The 2022 theme is: Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All.
Cultures and great religions constitute pillars of the global human civilization. Owing to their rich values, each of them founded principles at a specific point in history or across the ages, originating from human nature which contributed to the common heritage worldwide. In fact, the world civilization is the melting pot of the fundamental principles inherent in the prominent and pervasive cultures and civilization. Shared human principles are the foundation and the constituent elements of the universality of human rights. In this case, it can be said that the fundamental rights emanated from humanity us universal. Hence, the values such as justice, peace, human solidarity and fundamental human rights form part of common heritage. This cross-cultural heritage, analyzed within a historical retrospective approach, draws its strength and legitimacy from distinct value disciplines across the globe. Being the building blocks of the human civilizations, however, the different cultural and religious disciplines have an inherent right to preserve and develop their own principles within the common whole i.e. diversity within universality. Furthermore, it becomes clear that no civilization can claim to be the absolute champion of the common principles and the sole foundation of human civilization, including in the area of human rights.
Therefore both in terms of common sense and based on international consensus, respect for cultural and religious diversity at the international level is one of the foundations of international peace and security. In this context promotion of respect to and strict observance of cultural diversity contribute immensely to an underpins the United Nations purposes and principles.
On the other hand, the human relations and global interaction within the process of ongoing globalization have affected deeply in this domain. With the rise of integrated markets and new political coalitions in different regions as well as progress in communications, biotechnology, and transportation resulting in an unprecedented population growth, people voluntarily or forcefully were driven out of previous isolation and gathered collectively. The consequence of the globalization in its different forms, and influence of peoples and cultures was internationalism and multiculturalism which was combined with pluralism or even contradicted it. Persistence in returning to old traditions and customs as well as traditional cultures was evidenced alongside fundamental values and sense of one’s identity. Clearly, without this sense of identity, the people may be driven into isolation, racism or intolerance.
Thus, one can argue that respect for cultural diversity represents respect for human rights and strengthen the world’s civilizations, cultures and great religions that have created global civilization.
The question of cultural diversity within the universality of human rights in a globalizing world involves several dimensions. On the thematic side, the international community needs to respond that how can human rights be reconciled with cultures and traditions. Under these circumstances, the main problem is human rights exists in the world with various cultures. Therefore, in the area of universal human rights and cultural diversity, there exists series of questions and concerns that need to be responded. On the conceptual aspect of “order” referred to in Article 28 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights if seen in conjunction with the operative paragraph 14 of the UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity cane generate a new and hopeful perspective in this domain. To put more clearly, establishing a fair international order that contains various aspects of normative and structural respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights in the context of peace and security as an indivisible whole, and creates its correspondent functional mechanism in the international system, will have an important role in the meaningful realization of human right contributing to the peace and international security. To provide the necessary ground for respecting cultural diversity in the context of Article 28 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights, the intentional community should pay a close attention t key trends in conceptualization, international policy making, and international institutionalization.
More importantly, focusing on the importance of mainstreaming respect toward development, poverty reduction, free exchange of information as well as cooperation and solidarity in the context of U.N. activities is an effective way in achieving the end goal. Without mainstreaming of respect for cultural diversity in the general context of culture of peace, humanitarian and peace ideal will face challenges and difficulties.
Therefore, the United nations General Assembly, Human Rights Council, UNESCO and other relevant international organizations should mainstream respect for cultural diversity in different fields and establish relevant institutions. In the next step, even the prospect of preparing a binding treaty at the international level that can integrate the objectives of the charter-based mechanisms in the field of cultural diversity into the commitment and obligations of member states can be even more useful and effective.

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